Music, Ahoy

The Boat that Rocked
The Boat that Rocked

Pirate Radio

When I was a kid, we would occasionally have nights when my mom was extra tired or in a hurry or just wanted a simple meal, and we’d have apple slices and cheese for dinner.  It tasted really good and was actually pretty healthy.  But it wasn’t a complex flavor, just something you like.  Pirate Radio is like eating apples and cheese for dinner.

The film tells the story of a rebel radio station off the coast of Britain in 1966, when the BBC only played 2 hours of rock and roll per day.  The Pirate Radio boats would sit just outside British waters and broadcast music that would be listened to by many Britons (excepting the cartoonishly stuck-up parliamentarians, apparently).  The film follows the adventures of the rag-tag broadcast crew aboard “Radio Rock.”  One review I read criticized the film for its caricatures and shallow characters; I can see the validity of the claim, but ultimately it’s an ensemble movie that doesn’t seek to describe a specific character’s journey, but rather to capture the spirit of an era.  In that regard, it succeeds for me.

Some other thoughts:

  • The cast were just delightful.  We saw a return of the old Richard Curtis standbys Emma Thompson (briefly), Bill Nighy, and Rhys Ifans (a personal favorite).  We also have Phillip Seymour “Rue the Day” Hoffman, Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz),  Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords‘ Murray), Catherine Parkinson and Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd), and Kenneth Branagh sporting a tiny mustache.  The ensemble worked really well, with each person getting a few moments to shine but none overwhelming the story.  It reminded me most of Curtis’ Love, Actually, which has a similar distributed feeling.
  • I spent the whole movie pondering “Bob,” played by Ralph Brown.  There was something about him that was familiar, but I’ll be damned if I could figure it out.  Finally, having returned to IMDB, I discover that he played the legendary roadie Del Preston, in Wayne’s World 2.  Check it out below.
  • The film grabs on to an old canard about revolutionary radio — the idea of lots of people from different walks of life listening to the broadcast.  Some other films that do this, off the top of my head: the old Shadow movies jumped from teens necking in cars to businessmen and cafe owners listening to news updates; Elf features a television broadcast at the end of the film that jumps from little girls’ bedrooms to biker bars and board rooms; Scrooged visits all its characters in the same way.  Of course, we musn’t forget Pump Up the Volume.  But the movie this most reminded me of was Private Parts.  The jokes about the deejay wielding sexual powers over his listeners became especially prevalent once Gavin (Rhys Ifans) showed up and started (nearly) licking the microphone.  Howard Stern’s movie also regularly bounced from listener to listener, highlighting the grocer with a radio over his stand or the business woman listening in her office.  The clips for Pirate Radio could have been borrowed from Stern’s film, except for the period clothing.
  • The least effective part of the film, for me, was the cartoonish villainy of Branagh’s character.  It’s pretty ridiculous, especially the scene at his house during Christmas dinner.
  • I thought the film’s sexual politics and relationships were the most serious part of the film.  The main character’s easy forgiveness of his dream-girl’s betrayal gave me pause, but reflects the adolescent sex drive, perhaps.  Chris O’Dowd brings the most powerful performance of the film in the happy/sad/cruel moment shortly after he marries his dream girl.  Jenny and I decided that Curtis excels at crafting these tiny nuggets of intense emotion: c.f. Emma Thompson’s discovery of her husband’s wandering eye in Love, Actually.
  • As a media scholar, I can’t help but ponder the role of the government and the place of broadcasters in the film.  The movie makes much of the public’s love for the radio station and its rebel attitude.  But the government also uses, as an excuse, the deaths of some sailors whose distress call was drowned out by the pirate radio stations.  The henchman, named Twat, calls it the “smoking gun” they can use to shut down the stations and the film follows their evil machinations from there.  But I had two thoughts: 1) the reasonable liberty-loving approach would have been to designate an emergency band in which no radio stations may broadcast; this solution isn’t available in this film because it’s a caricature, not the place for reasonable debate.  2) the film placed no emphasis or stress on those deaths.  While the villains were cartoonish, they had a point–the behavior of the pirate radio stations was to blame for that distress call going awry and it’s a shame the film didn’t make space for that thought.

Overall, Pirate Radio offers an enjoyable meal that won’t make you ponder the splendor of the universe or the justice of the world.  It won’t make you a better person.  But you’ll probably be happy to have watched it.  And it might get you to dust off those back-catalog mp3s or to check out a record from The Kinks.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wRSHXhJzsY]

2009-11-29 Tweets

  • Gratifiying note from a sysadmin: "Thanks for your general competence and for making my job easier." #
  • "It is very hard, almost impossible, to say I will pass on the hope and go with what we know is true." – Dr. James Laidler #

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The Dumbest Generation

The Dumbest Generation
The Dumbest Generation

How the Digital Age Stupifies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future
by Mark Bauerlein

It seems apt to write a post about Bauerlein’s book the day after I reflect on Avery’s burgeoning digital talent.  I’m going to characterize the book in a couple sets of bullets — things I think the book says, things I dislike about the book, and things I like about the book.

Things the book says

  • Bauerlein argues that digital technology does not deliver on the promises its promoters have made.  The millennials are told, from the moment they start mixing and Facebooking, that they see things in a different way, they are the digital generation, and that they are great.  But these new skills don’t translate into real world performance, and they’re leaving school less informed, less thoughtful, less able, and more self-confident (paradoxically) than any previous generation.
  • The mentors have abdicated their (our) responsibility as guardians of tradition and have left the millennials underprepared for the future and unaware of their deficits.
  • Reading is AWESOME and not enough young people do it.

Things I like about what the book says

  • We are at a crisis of education.  Students aren’t being challenged in the classroom enough and the intellectual life their teachers take for granted has changed beyond recognition.
  • The cultural heritage democracy depends on–particularly a contextualized knowledge of history and philosophy–is almost entirely absent from the new generation leaving high school.  We can expect to see a major problem maintaining the standards of intelligent debate when this gap exists.  The most disturbing quote in the book: “Two-thirds of high school seniors couldn’t explain a photo of a theater whose portal reads ‘COLORED ENTRANCE’.” (17)
  • It’s important to instill in the young a respect for history and those who have come before them.  Youth always believe themselves to be special — history and knowledge teach us how little of what we’ve done is actually special; humility breeds real intelligence.

That I don’t like about what the book says

  • Bauerlein criticizes digital boosters as focusing on a narrow niche of students, people who epitomize the highest achievers of their generation, and making broad claims based on their behaviors.  But Bauerlein does the same thing when he romanticizes the intellectual heft of students from the past.  I doubt that a huge swath of middle-achievers in the 1950s went to museums for fun instead of playing baseball or hanging out with friends; the mall– not the library– was the Facebook of the 1980s.
  • Much of what he suggests about how knowledge works depends on a notion of individual depth that makes sense.  If you don’t have the context to understand the history of race-relations in the U.S., it’s hard to speak adequately about the issue.  But I think people in the digital age acquire a wider range of deep specialties which they can use to connect to other students and people.  He underplays the value of these specialties.
  • He also overplays the visibility of the intellectual activities of the youth of the past.  Writing about intellectuals of the past, he says “Do Intellectual Pockets exist today similar to Alcove 1 or to Port Huron?  I don’t know of any” (228).  I suspect these groups came to power later, and that people weren’t writing books about them at the time.

In the end, I agree with many sentiments Bauerlein offers here, but I ultimately disagree with the “hell in a handbasket” reading of all our culture.  As a scholar of the digital age, I’m interesting in looking at how to leverage new ways of communicating into productive work as fast as possible.  From that perspective, Bauerlein stands like a man on the beach facing a breaker with his hand out, shouting stop as the wave bears down.

Affordances

Reaching for the Remote
Reaching for the Remote*

Avery recently learned to use the remote.  She’s been building up to it for a while now, able to turn off the television by pushing the red button at the top.  Finn knows to point the remote at the television too.  It’s appalling and cute at the same time.

But just recently, Jenny was busy and Avery was watching Merry Madagascar on the TiVO, so when she wanted Jenny to pause it so she could go to the bathroom, Jenny just said “Push the yellow button and it will stop.”  When Avery got back from the bathroom, all hell broke loose, remote-usingly speaking.  Avery moved from pause-unpause to fast-forwarding, rewinding, pushing the “eight second back” button, and so on.  She started picking and choosing from Merry Madagascar, watching the segment where the four animals open their presents over and over, rewinding to the part where the little girl falls down the stairs, fast forwarding to something else.  I was working on the kitchen ceiling at the time, so I listened to the distinctive bleep-bloop of the TiVO and pondered new media.

Here’s my daughter, not yet four, remixing a television show, within twenty minutes of learning to use the remote.  Sure, she’s just watching her favorite parts, but she’s also making use of the affordances of the medium.  TiVO affords watching one segment over and over; it affords leaving out the commercials (“I hate ‘ommercials” she says, ever her Daddy’s girl); it demands remix.  If she could add in Dora and Batman from Scooby Doo, I know she would.

She’s growing up in a world where she starts movies from the beginning (“Daddy, can we start NEMO from the part with the sharks?”), and our current conception of what should and should not be allowed for that media will be alien to her in ways I can hardly conceive.  As Lawrence Lessig says, “Common sense revolts.”

* Photo by MarkKelly, distributed under Attr-Sharealike-NonCom license

Turkey Day

Turkey Hop*
Turkey Hop*

Highlights from my Thanksgiving.

  • When the State Street parade in Chicago started 45 minutes late, I scowled inwardly at the poor planning that left me with a three-year-old moaning “I wanna go home!”  Twenty minutes later, as a two-story Paddington Bear drifts by, she shouts from atop my shoulders, “This is Coo-ool, Daddy!”
  • I’m always amazed how much meat you can get from a turkey.  And how quickly it gets eaten.
  • I decide I will give in to my wife’s family tradition that desserts with fruit (like my father-in-law’s award winning apple pie) are eligible breakfast foods.
  • A night out at the movies while the in-laws watch the kids.  Rare treat.  Delightful.
  • Black Friday is a day of lazing about on the couch with my kids.  Jenny braves the crowds.  I think I got the better deal.

Finally, a memory.  In How a Film Theory Got Lost Robert Ray explains that his daughters divide holidays into two categories: “present holidays [and] the scorned food holidays.”

*Photo by RBerteig, released under CC Attr license.

ScreamFree Parenting

ScreamFree Parenting
ScreamFree Parenting

The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool
by Hal Edward Runkel

I’m generally a calm guy.  I don’t usually rant and rave or scream.  But I also have a three-year old at home, a little person who has perfected the art of pushing my buttons and who can, with a few well timed and well-aimed misbehaviors, send me into froths of anxiety, sometimes leading me to raise my voice.  I don’t like being that person.

Runkel’s book actually doesn’t have different insight than other books I’ve read.  It’s a new phraseology on the same old arguments, ideas about how to interact with kids, on setting boundaries, on being who you need to be to be a good parent.  Whew, that’s an awkward sentence.

He uses the term scream to refer to a whole raft of behaviors parents use when they lose their cool, from literally screaming to shouting to giving up (Oh, just do what you want) to begging or pleading.  All these are, for Runkel, screams that do a disservice to you and your child.  Or me and mine, as I read the book.

So here’s what I get from ScreamFree Parenting:

  1. Give your kids space and try to lose your anxiety about it.  If they have their own space, they will develop to be their own people.  This includes letting children face the consequences of their choices and make decisions for themselves in many things.
  2. You can’t control their reactions, only yours.  If you’re consistent and calm for yourself, principled in your actions, you will serve your children well.  This includes setting clear and consistent boundaries and enforcing them from a position of careful decision-making, not passion or anger.
  3. You must take care of yourself to take care of your children.  He uses the oxygen mask on the plane as an example — put on your own before you put on theirs.  Similarly, Runkel urges parents to find fulfillment for themselves and in themselves, not in their children.  By being our own people and loving our children for being theirs, you provide them both a model for how to behave, and you release them the burden of having to be your support.

As I said, these aren’t amazing insights, but a new way of phrasing them that I particularly like.  In the final chapter, Runkel urges that parents act from a position of principle, setting boundaries and punishments because they need to be set, rather than out of desperation.  It’s a cool system and one that I’ve already found some benefit from working into my daily interactions with Avery and Finn.

A great article about Autism

The Chicago Tribune has started a watchdog series on autism and the quackery deployed to “treat” the disease and bilk people of their savings to do so.  The first article, a big one in last Sunday’s paper, is a solid example of good autism writing.  The reporters spend time on the controversy, cover both sides of the debate, and use the science and their own brain to evaluate the claims being made about the medicine.  Namely, that no studies show any connection between vaccines and autism, that personal experience is not a good indicator of the validity of a treatment, and that most alternative treatments are unproven and dangerous.  There were three moments I thought were particularly awesome.

First, a refutation of the argument that kids with autism should be experimented on because the need is immediate:

Many parents who try alternative therapies cite an analogy popularized by a luminary of the movement, a physician who wrote a book on recovering children from autism. They say they feel as if their child has jumped off a pier. Science hasn’t proved that throwing a life preserver will save the child, but they have a duty to try, right?

Critics say that’s the wrong way to think about it.

“How do they know the life preserver is made of cork and not lead? That is the issue,” said Richard Mailman, a neuropharmacologist at Penn State University. “However desperate you are, you don’t want to throw your child a lead life preserver.”

A treatment that hasn’t been put through a study with controls is unproven and possibly dangerous.

Second, the essay has some quotes from a scientist who does want the community to put more focus on heavy metals as one possible source of autism.  But she knows the nuts in the anti-vax community, and she’s very strongly opposed to being misrepresented.  Check out this quote:

Harvard pediatric neurologist Dr. Martha Herbert, who has given speeches at Autism One conferences, is often cited by advocates in the recovery movement as proof that people with stellar credentials support them.

Herbert said she endorses the movement’s push to look at environmental toxins as a possible factor in autism and supports researching whether various treatments can improve the health of children with the disorder. Chelation, she wrote in an e-mail, “is a very special case” and should not be used “to praise or damn other approaches.”

In an earlier e-mail she wrote that she would sue the Tribune if she was portrayed as “an uncritical booster and fan of potentially dangerous unorthodox treatments.”

“I’m not defending chelation,” Herbert said in an interview. “I will sue you if you say that.”

That’s awesome.  I especially love that they published this nearly desperate denial.  The anti-vaxers are so rabid that all reasonable scientists must be vociferous and vocal in defending moderate or curious stances, lest they be mischaracterized.

Finally, This moment at the end reflects, for me, the heart of the matter.  The story had an inset about a family with an autistic boy who has discontinued the alternative treatments he’d been receiving because they weren’t doing anything.  In fact, they were bunk.  Check out this bit of wisdom that helps explain both the parents who buy into the treatments and the reasons one must resist:

The last straw came on a family trip to Disneyland. Laidler’s youngest son was on a gluten-free diet, and doctors had told Laidler that if he had even a bite of wheat, he would suffer a “total regression,” Laidler said.

At a buffet, while the parents were distracted, their youngest son grabbed a waffle and bit in. And then — nothing happened.

“I really fooled myself,” Laidler said.

Laidler said he now regrets having misled parents. Pitches from doctors providing alternative treatments are difficult to resist, he said.

“They are people offering hope,” he said. “And it is very hard, almost impossible, to say I will pass on the hope and go with what we know is true.”

Big City Bad Blood

Big City Bad Blood
Big City Bad Blood

by Sean Chercover

I started this book two months ago when my book club read it, but wasn’t able to attend the meeting and so put it down after 40 pages or so.  Something about the book didn’t work for me.  Never one to give up easily on a book, I picked it back up this week and found it to be much more interesting.

Big City Bad Blood follows the adventures of awesomely named Ray Dudgeon, a hard hitting Chicago P.I. with a cranky streak that reminds me a lot of Chandler or Hammett characters.  He’s grouchy.  He’s hired to provide protection services to a location scout who finds himself embroiled in a political / mob conflagration.  Some thoughts:

  • Chercover’s action sequences work well, and the environment of Chicago works well, though his view of the city sure is seemier than mine.  I guess I don’t travel in the P.I. circles very easily though.
  • Dudgeon’s interaction with women works pretty well, but he tends to be a bit too stereotypically assholish for my taste.  You don’t need to be such a crank.
  • The ethics of murder and self-defense come up at one point in a way that works really well.  I like the interplay of the police and Dudgeon, and his own internal reasoning about guilt and actions are solid and entertaining.
  • The side characters are solidly-drawn and function nicely, with a good mix of returning/repeating characters and one-offs that serve as touch-stones in Ray’s progress through the mystery.
  • The mystery itself resolves pretty quickly, putting the book in the contemporary category of “thriller.”  So does the bullet-ridden cover art.

Overall, not bad.  Some of the dialogue feels a little wooden, but it’s a good first outing.  Plus the author photo in the back looks like it could be Ray Dudgeon himself, scowling at the camera.  Yikes.

2009-11-22 Tweets

  • You can't prevent bad ideas from being heard, but you can shed light on them and make them look foolish. – Russell Glasser (among others) #
  • There was a piece of bacon on the sidewalk today. Bacon. Cooked, crispy. Looked delicious. What a waste. #

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The Undead

The Undead
The Undead

Zombie Anthology
Edited by D.L. Snell and Elijah Hall

This collection of zombie stories has quite a few interesting entries, with some a bit afield of the usual zombie story, but overall much tighter to the genre than the collection I read last year, The Living Dead.  We will be using this anthology in my Zombie class this year, so I’ve now got to figure out which story goes with which film/reading combination.  Here are five stories I thought worth commenting on:

  • “The Diabolical Plan” by Derek Gunn recounts a British ship captain’s hunt and sinking of a French ship loaded with zombies.  It’s a rip-roaring sea story with a good ending.
  • “13 Ways of Looking at the Living Dead” by Eric Pape tells the story of a conventional zombie outbreak using a post-modern storytelling style reminiscent of “The Heat Death of the Universe.”  I like the disconnected bits that slowly weave into a narrative of creepiness.  See also: The Re-Animator
  • Ann at Twilight” by Brent Zirnheld also really compelled me.  It’s a strong, tough story about a blind woman struggling to make it in a world full of zombies.
  • “Hell and Back” by Vince Churchill grabbed me most strongly, with its brutal story and heart-breaking situation.  The zombie stories that get me most brutally are the ones that capture a slice of life (see the beginning of the new Dawn of the Dead) and make it entirely plausible that this slice of life could go very wrong very quickly.
  • “Undead Prometheus” by Rob Morganbesser stands out as my favorite story in the collection.  I love the premise that Frankenstein’s monster is real and has survived this whole time, only to find himself in the midst of a zombie outbreak.  The story captures the monster’s angst and perspective beautifully, and there’s solid zombie mayhem to boot.

Overall, it’s a satisfying anthology, one that will provide some good extra servings of zombies to my class.

Godwin’s Law

I left my office last Friday to head home.  I armed myself against the outside world with my Shure ear-plug headphones and my librivox copy of Great Expectations. As Pip and I approached the corner across from the library, I saw a semi-circle of folks standing around a man lecturing.  It’s a popular corner–there’s usually someone from Greenpeace asking if I have a minute to save the planet.  Then I saw the sign he was holding.  It sat on his foot, waist high, my President’s face with a little Hitler mustache.  Below, in gold lettering, were the words Stop Obama’s Nazi Health Care Regime.

I’ve certainly encountered my share of Nazi-invokers.  I’m aware of Godwin’s Law:

As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.  The term Godwin’s law can also refer to the tradition that whoever makes such a comparison is said to “lose” the debate. (Wikipedia)

But this experience was different.  It was in person.  It was about an issue I have strong personal stake in.  It was something I feel to be one of the biggest moral crises our nation has faced in some time.  And it made me angry.  I walked past the man and his crowd quickly, knowing immediately that I would never convince this person of the shocking errors of his position.  I would never convince him of his raging obtuseness, of the reprehensibility of his position, of the intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice he showed in reducing such a complex issue to name calling.  As I stood just past him, my blood boiling in my veins and my feet tingling in a way I have rarely felt before, my mind raced:

  • His table of self-righteous fliers with George Washington on them sat just feet away.  I pondered knocking it over, rolling the card table under the bus passing just in front of me.  I wondered what would happen if I just punched him.  Really.  I considered punching him.
  • I pondered crashing into a screaming tirade.  You should be ashamed of yourself.  The program you speak of seeks to provide health care to people who don’t have it.  Regardless of your philosophical disagreements with it, equating the program to the systematic extermination of millions of people marks you as a reprobate.  Your family should weep for you. Like this.
  • I wondered at the race dynamics at work in this confrontation.  The two men manning the table and holding the signs were both black.  I wonder how the crowd would have reacted if they’d been white.
  • I considered staying to try and talk sense into the guy.  But I worried that my outrage over his sign would have pushed me into the first or second option above.
  • I wondered whether he was making a brilliant rhetorical move, perhaps holding an inflammatory sign that made me take notice in a way the polite green-jacketed environmentalists never do.  What if I started to confront him only to learn that the sign was a bait and switch to lure in the LEFT and capture them in a petition or money drive?

But mostly, I chose not to go back because I felt shockingly unhinged.  My body was betraying my emotions in ways I rarely felt, quivering with anger and afraid I might be tempted to do something.  As it was, I stewed for at least 20 minutes, riding the El most of the way home before I could think about something else.

Godwin’s Law now carries new meaning for me.  It doesn’t just signal an intellectual sinkhole from which few arguments can recover or a shallowness of thought to watch out for.  It also helped uncover the depth of my feelings about intelligence and honesty, and my deep-seated intolerance for fools proud of their ignorance.

Midnight Nation

Midnight Nation
Midnight Nation

by J. Michael Straczynski

Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the story, so I won’t bother here.  Straczynski crafts a religious tale about a man who battles demons over his soul.  Some thoughts:

  • The story is okay, but the art got in the way for me — I don’t understand why a good story needs to have scantily clad ladies with prominent breasts to be a good “comic.”  Admittedly, it’s not as bad as it could have been, but really, did the angel character need to have busty cleavage, a bare midriff, and high-cut underwear that sticks up from her low-rise jeans?
  • I feel like there’s a bit of religious meditation here, but the comic doesn’t really go deep enough into it to help me understand the final ramifications of the story.
  • I like the sub-text about people who get ignored by polite society.  I’ve read that one of the worst parts of homelessness is the loneliness, being ignored daily by person after person.  There’s a good section in which several of the forgotten gather around a fire to tell their stories to one another.  We come to see that they’re insulating one another against the harms of the outside world.  It’s tough to see what Straczynski thinks about the hero’s decision not to stay with the campfire people–is it bravery that they don’t have?  They seem trod upon, but also somewhat to blame.  The segment replicates the problematic question of how to help the homeless — how much personal blame/guilt/drive do they need to embrace themselves?
  • The demons were cool, with etched tattoos all over their bodies.  For all that, the big demon (Satan) was pretty well drawn, with a good set of complaints about God.  It might be interesting to compare this story to Garth Ennis’ Preacher cycle, both of which depict God pretty ruthlessly.

Four people waiting to turn left

My walk to work is not this scenic.*
My walk to work is not this scenic.*

On my walk to work each morning, I usually pass a line of people waiting to turn left onto a busy street.  Today, I looked at the people in four of the cars:

  • Bald, mid-thirties white guy with two-day beard and his finger buried in his nose.  Driving a gray Porsche or other care that looks like one.  Looking morosely out the window.  It occurs to me that he looks a bit like a Law and Order Eastern European mafia extra.  Shifts to scratching the outside of his nose when he sees me walking by.  I’m reminded of the 1990s.
  • Late-thirties or early-forties black woman, hair pulled into a pony tail, putting on lip-liner using the mirror on her sun shade.  Teal Ford Taurus.
  • Late twenties black man with close cropped goatee and blue cap.  Staring forward, tired as me.
  • Silver SUV with hefty white guy with salt-and-pepper goatee.  Talking vigorously to his carpool-mate, a woman I only catch a glimpse of before the cars roll around the corner.

I wonder if they’re blogging about me.

*”Walking in the snow” Photo by Maclomhair, released under CC license.

Turned away

I thought you’d all be waiting to hear about the Zombie class waiting list.  In the end, I added four students to the roster, and had to turn away 15 who emailed me directly.  Who knows how many would have registered if their had been seats available.  Woo.

As one student lamented in the subject line of her request: “Zombies in Popular Media too popular.”

A Chosen Faith

A Chosen Faith
A Chosen Faith

An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism
by John A Buehrens and Forrest Church

My family has started attending the local Unitarian Universalist church in the last couple months and I’ve found it quite invigorating and interesting.  As part of the process, we took the “Introduction to UU” class and I bought a book about the religion.  Having finished it now, I’m happy to report that I’m even more interested in this community than I was previously.

A couple general thoughts:

  • UU started as a Christian sect that held views believed by other sects to be apostasy.  Its commitment to reason and science and human values intrigued me, and its renunciation of dogma was the clincher.  The value of being able to belong to a faith community that doesn’t demand allegiance to a specific view of the afterlife is intriguing.
  • I like the idea of showing concern for this life.  The one, as the authors of this book put it, that we know for sure we have.
  • The introduction starts with these two sentences: “All Theology is autobiography.  As are most sweeping generalizations, this one is false.”  It struck me that the second sentence there was a fractal spiral of meaning, a kind of mobius strip that could stand on its own, like “Cici n’est pas une pipe.”

Below the fold are a few passages I marked that I find particularly enlightening or interesting.

Continue reading A Chosen Faith